Deborah the Dominant Spouse? #AtoZChallenge

Submissive women aren’t women who walk three paces behind men with their eyes lowered and mouths shut.

Some of you are still flabbergasted that I am talking about this, that I am supporting the idea of a “submissive woman”, and that need for such a woman exists in today’s day and age. I’m not offended. The Word of God was true yesterday, today, and it will stand up to the test again tomorrow.

Are you holding your tongue, or your fingers, to keep from saying, “Carrie, these principles existed in Bible times, but times are different now. These principals don’t apply anymore. Women are capable of taking care of themselves.”?

I beg to differ.

Not that woman can’t take care of themselves today! I’m absolutely one of those women who CAN take care of herself and whoever happens to fall under her care. I totally agree with you. Surprised?

However, I don’t believe that times are different now. I believe women in “Bible times” were exactly like you and me. Capable.

Sometimes I think we get this misguided impression of women from Bible times. Somehow we gotten stuck on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which say:

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 1 Timothy 2:11-12

These two sets of verses (I asked my husband if he knew where the reference was located and his response? “Not off the top of my head, but I have it marked in my Bible.”) are specific in nature as to order in church meetings based on prophecy, tongues, and general confusion going on in the Corinthian church (Corinthians) and then to Timothy’s church at the time.

Christian and non-Christian people alike have battled these verses for years. We try to rationalize them with our societal rules and expectations, our denomination rules and expectations, and our general wants. Every time we find that something doesn’t align. But scripture doesn’t contradict itself, so let’s look at some other scripture.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
Judges 4:4-5

Deborah was an Old Testament woman, yes, and she was married.
Therefore, she stayed home with a veil, raised children, and was silent when she attended church with her family. Right? That’s the opinion we have of Biblical women.

What does the actual scripture teach us about Deborah? Deborah was a prophetess.

Um, can women be prophets? The answer is yes. Deborah was an Old Testament woman and she was a prophetess. Let’s see what the New Testament has to say about that.

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
1 Corinthians 11:3-5

It seems that the New Testament also includes instructions for how women can appropriately prophesy.


Deborah was a judge. Now, does this Old Testament married woman sound like a silent, doormat?

Deborah was a woman God used greatly. The children of Israel came to her for judgment. They knew where she would be and sought her out. They didn’t look for her husband, father, or brothers, but for her.

Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedsh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?” And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. Judges 4:6-9
Deborah doesn’t seem too much like our society’s idea of a submissive wife, does she?

Deborah didn’t wait for Barak to come to her. She sent for him. And when he arrived she didn’t wait to hear what he had to say for himself, she confronted him with what God had already commanded him to do. God used Deborah to confirm what He had already told Barak to do.

Barak was apparently like some of us. He had his orders, much like Jonah, but he wasn’t responding like he had been instructed. So God gave the message to Deborah, a prophetess in the region, a woman.

I would think that Deborah’s job was done once she had passed on God’s message, but Barak still isn’t quite up to following God’s orders.

“Fine.” he says. “I’ll do it. But only if YOU go with me.”

Ten thousand men already at his disposal, but Barak refuses to go without Deborah. He has more faith in Deborah the prophetess than he does in God. This is a wrong attitude on his part, but it tells us quite a bit about how Deborah is perceived in her community. Especially by the strong men in her community.

Deborah does not back down from his challenge, nor does she let him off the hook.

“Absolutely I’ll go with you, but you will receive no glory for this mission. The Lord will let Sisera be taken by the hand of a woman.”

And Deborah took off into battle with a man who wasn’t her husband.

Was Deborah a submissive woman or was she in direct opposition to the teachings I’ve spent so much time examining this week? She sure wasn’t a shy church mouse of a woman! She definitely wasn’t the silent in church type. She absolutely wasn’t the three paces behind a man kinda girl.

We need to know that Deborah was submissive. She submitted to God. He directed her path and she walked that path even though it was a very unusual path for the time and culture she was born into.

She submitted to Barak who God put in authority over her. Notice her submission didn’t mean she held her tongue and was silent. She clearly spoke the words God gave her even when they could have been poorly received.

She submitted to the leadership of her church. They are the ones who placed her in the position she held. She had to maintain the rules and expectation to keep the position. That required submitting to the church’s leadership.

Based on our introduction to Deborah, we know she held three important positions: prophetess, wife, judge. We do not know any details about her marriage, but based on her character, we can make the correlation that she submitted to her husband as she did to God, the church, and other men placed in positions of authority over her.

Deborah was far from a weak, second-rate citizen. She did not hold a meaningless position in society. Even by today’s standards she would have been considered high-ranking and high-powered.


Struggling with the idea of being submissive and still being a strong, productive member of society? Don’t, daughter, don’t.

God created you just the way you are. He made you strong, decisive, and gave you counseling and leadership characteristics on purpose for His purpose. Don’t you dare think He wants you to hide them or force them into silence.

That isn’t submission! That’s a sin of omission.

Don’t try to be something you aren’t because we have this misguided impression of what a submissive wife should look like. If God has called you to be a Deborah, then submit to His calling and stop questioning Him!

It’s time to say YES, Lord, YES!



  • I really appreciated this fulsome discussion of “submission.” I have never been a Biblical literalist, but I do like to hear what those who really delve into the Bible see. thank you.

    • Carol,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! Did you find anything here that surprised you? I would like to get some feedback to see if this kind of information is needed or if everyone already knows.

      Happy Easter!

  • This is soooo interesting. I was just having a discussion with this guy about submitting and I think it is so hard for women to submit. That word has such a bad connotation. I could do it for the right man because I know I am stronger with him by my side.

    • Janelle,

      I’m so glad you took the time to read this! You are right about the negative connotations associated with submissive. Did anything here bring an “ah ha” moment or turn what you might have recognized as a negative into a positive description?

      I’m trying to get some feedback on this subject. Thank you for your help!

      Happy Easter!

  • I love the way you shared Deborah’s story and showed what the true meaning of the call to be ‘submissive’ is, Carrie Ann.

  • This was really interesting. Every where its the same story as far as women are concerned. Loved the way you have written and explained about real meaning of being submissive.

  • I agree with the Bible! Can’t argue with the role of submission. Doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lovely way to describe about what it really means to be a submissive women. I especially like how you brought the Deborah story into it. Very nice!

  • Thanks for a very thought provoking post. Barak certainly was not fulfilling his role in what God had asked him to do. Debra had to submit to God’s authority and make sure Barak deployed the troops.
    God has designed marriage so that husbands and wives are not brawling. A wife should be able to trust her husband to lead; looking out for both their best interests. Within the marriage, the wife certainly has to strong and decisive honoring God and her husband. 🙂
    Have a blessed Easter, Carrie.

  • You are a wonderful teacher, Carrie!
    You remind me of some of the writers who create P31 devotions. I did learn some things today. Thank you for your research and putting it out there pl,ainly!

  • Very inspiring post! I believe in submission, but not weakness. Deborah is a great example of such. Thanks for sharing! #ultrablog

  • You did a very good job explaining it. In some circles though, women are regulated to work in the kitchen, nurseries, or other likeminded areas. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it’s sad when they are stifled, not allowed to follow God’s call and anointing in their lives. Thankfully I’m in a church that gives women freedom. I don’t take that for granted.

  • Thank you for this affirming post.

  • I agree with Barbara. This is a very thought provoking post. The word submission had a negative connotation which is for sure part of the problem. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for this great lesson! I Always loved this story and our daughter has the name of this woman, who walked with the LORD in hard times.

    The men in Deborah’s days were very weak and cowardly. This is viewed in the fact that Barak, the army commander of Israel, refused to go into battle unless Deborah went with him. The problem in Deborah’s day was spiritual apostasy. When God’s people turn away from Him, He allows men are helpless against their enemies and removes wisdom from their harten. In Deborah’s day, Israel was handed over to her enemies, simply because of their apostasy against the true God and Scripture (Judges 4: 1 -2). That was why the men were so weak. God had removed their power as He did with the sinful Samson.

    God teaches men / leaders who sins life a lesson, through the wisdom and faith of steadfast women.